Real men do not use instructions. So it is ironic that Chris Wares book about a failure of man contains a complete set. The most interesting part of these general instructions is the Ease of Use section, for one reason because this book is anything but easy to use, and this section makes no attempts at making it any easier at first glance. Upon close examination of the Ease of use section however a lot of important ideas are packed into this short section. The Ease of Use section gives many clues about the purpose of the book and how to get through it for the superman dream sequence will illustrate this.
First and foremost the ease of use section clearly points out that the book has been “carefully arranged and skillfully decorated”. This could of course be casually glanced over as an author being full of himself, but really its Wares way of saying everything is in its place for a reason. Several points throughout the novel there are subtle things that he added or excluded that one could overlook but are necessary to understand the breathe of the novel. In the superman sequence it is the absence of something important that’s very hard to stop. Superman just lifted a house and sent it sputtering back to earth, in the middle of what is clearly a crowded down, and no one came outside to help. There are lights on but no ones home. Ware could have easily added a crowd but chose not to enhance the loneliness and utter despair of the scene.
The next major section of the Ease of Use instructions explains how the book can be used as a “convincing simulation of life” in a number of unpleasant situations. Ware names places like waiting rooms, bus rides, and breaks at work, places where normal people would maybe take a second out of their day to escape the real world, but Ware never mentions escaping. He very specifically says a “convincing simulation of life”, perhaps he is taking a second to comment on how miserable peoples lives actually are if he considers Jimmy a realistic simulation of life. Another reason Ware uses this phrasing is most likely how Jimmy’s fantasy “escapes” are really just ways of interpreting his terrible life. Once again examining the superman sequence using the Ease of Use section, it becomes much more then a really messed up dream. It can be interpreted that Superman symbolizes Jimmy’s dad, or even fatherhood in general, and as a result of him shrinking or failing Jimmy’s son is broken and Jimmy himself has to finish him off. So in Jimmy’s subconscious because his dad left him Jimmy’s own hopes of being a successful father are dashed. Looking at it is this way the reader gets a much deeper understanding of the dream sequence and through it the mind of Jimmy and it’s a dark one at that.
The Ease of Use explains one more useful piece of information; it is not so useful in explaining any sequence in particular but more the contents of the book in general. It explains why the cover of the book looks the way it does: “to prevent embarrassment, all gaudiness and indication of contents have been shrewdly left from the exterior”. Ware is making a couple of statements here. Primarily it is a graphic novel its not main stream like a book, or a magazine and should be approached as a graphic novel and not any conventional literature. Next when looking at the phrase a different way he is also offering a slight warning to the taboo content of the book, it’s dark, it covers heavy subject material, and it’s depressing, but its worth reading even though on the surface it looks like a comic. Lastly he’s offering another a clue to interpreting the novel, look deeper beyond what’s on the surface of the strip, what exactly do the aesthetics mean. Look for a deeper meaning like the mice in the superman sequence all waiting for Jimmy to deliver the final blow, where are they from? What do they mean? It requires research to find out that the mouse was from a comic strip that Ware was one of the original in the genre, and further that the mouse was an antagonistic figure that through a brick at an innocent cat, like Jimmy throwing the brick at his son. Without the Ease of Use instructions highlighting these facts the book would be infinitely more difficult then it already is, and even through real men do not use instructions for this book it fits the emasculating feeling fits.